Several small players in fray for Mumbai University’s senate elections | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Several small players in fray for Mumbai University’s senate elections

Mumbai city news: Smaller student organisations are giving a tough fight to established forces like Yuva Sena, ABVP

mumbai Updated: Jul 03, 2017 13:33 IST
Musab Qazi

As the University of Mumbai (MU) prepares to hold elections for its senate after a gap of seven years, the student wings of political parties have once again become active. For the last one month, they have been convincing university graduates to register themselves as voters. While the registration drive was spearheaded by established forces such as Shiv Sena’s Yuva Sena, BJP-allied Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and MNS’s Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS), many smaller student organisations and student wings of political parties also joined the fray.

According to MA Khan, registrar, MU, anywhere between 20 and 30 student groups ran registration campaigns, bringing the voter tally up from last year’s 46,000 to over 55,000. “There were many organisations this time. The first phase of senate elections was under control due to mature behaviour by all the organisations,” he said.

For the last two years, the university has been functioning without a full-fledged senate and other statutory bodies, as the state government, preparing to introduce Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016, had put an embargo on elections for these bodies. The act was enacted on March 1. Of the 78 seats in the MU senate, 10 seats have been allotted to the representatives to the varsity’s graduates, who are elected by an electoral college consisting of registered graduates.

The outcome of the polls for these seats is usually decided by the number of graduates registered by the different student groups. Of the total voters who registered in the last month, Yuva Sena activists claim to have brought in 30,000 to 40,000 voters. ABVP claims that they got around 11,000 registrations.

On the other hand, the smaller groups managed to bring a few thousand registrations. For example, a city-based student group named ‘Prahar’, which is looking to contest the elections for the first time, claims that they got 3,500 graduates to register. Similarly, Mahamumbai Padvidhar Sabha, a group of varsity alumni and Mumbai University SC/ST/OBC Students and Teachers Association managed to bring in 700 voters each.

“It’s very difficult to convince the graduates to register and vote in senate polls. Hence, only the established political groups would participate in senate elections, as they have a vast network and the required money power. However, social media has made it easier for groups like us to venture into senate politics,” said Manoj Tekade, president, Prahar.

While it’s difficult for these smaller groups to actually win a single seat at the senate, they may be able to influence the result. According to a varsity official, the outcome of senate elections is often decided by pre-poll deal made between rival groups - more the number of voters with a particular group, higher its bargaining power. “Even if they are not able to send representatives, the groups with substantial number of voters are able to extract certain promises based on their agenda from the dominant groups,” said Sujit Chavan secretary, Mahamumbai Padvidhar Sabha.

According to Chavan,there’s another reason for increasing participation by smaller groups. “With the legislative council elections for graduate and teachers’ constituencies slated for next year, many political groups want to spread their tentacles,” he said.